Integrate mental health and HIV care - Joska

22 August 2011

Dr John JoskaIntegration in care: Dr John Joska believes in one-stop mental health care provision.

There is a clear link between mental health and HIV, yet limited attention is paid to addressing both conditions concurrently, according to Dr John Joska, a senior specialist at UCT's Department of Psychiatry and Mental Health.

Setting the stage for the conference, Mind, Body, HAART, hosted by the Groote Schuur Hospital-HIV Mental Health Group on 11 and 12 August, Joska cited the stigma associated with mental health, the heavy burden of HIV, and the skills shortage as reasons for the problem.

The conference was attended by scores of healthcare providers, from nurses and doctors to psychologists, counsellors and academics.

Joska pointed out that psychological disorders such as depression, anxiety and alcohol abuse are more prevalent among HIV-infected patients, and these lead to numerous adverse health, economic and personal outcomes.

Joska called for what one practitioner described as a "top-to-toe service", an integrated health care approach, ideally offered at the same time in the same place.

"If you have a patient that you need to refer out, it is difficult for him to come back for another visit or to go to a distant place, ending up in him defaulting in his treatment," Joska reasoned. "In the ideal world, services are co-located and are integrated."

And all providers need to increase their skills, and the work of health-care providers needs to be continuously researched.

"There can be no health without mental health," added Joska.

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